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Issue #1668      December 10, 2014

Victorian election

More nails in Abbott govt’ coffin

The defeat of Victoria’s Napthine Coalition government would have sent chills down the spines of Tony Abbott’s axe-wielding federal parliamentary team. Nobody denies the ousting of Napthine and Co after a single term in office was largely a backlash against federal policies that have devastated whole communities. The message is clear that Australian voters will no longer re-elect governments that support open and egregious attacks on the interests of workers and other less privileged people. Traditional loyalties to the old parties of capitalist management have lost more of their grip on the voting habits of Australians as the economy continues to stumble and public services fall further into disrepair.

The Coalition threw everything at Labor in order to stay in office. It misread the public mood by trying to link the ALP to the CFMEU and the trade union movement more generally. The attempted smear backfired. People’s anger was rightly directed at the failure of the federal and state government to save manufacturing jobs. The full impact of the loss of the car industry is yet to be felt in Victoria and neighbouring South Australia but Victorian voters have made their judgement on the state Coalition’s decision to cut funding to the Automotive Transformation Scheme. The lack of a plan “B” also stands condemned.

Labor’s Daniel Andrews will become the state’s Premier but the real news is the strong performance of the Greens, with candidate Ellen Sandell likely to claim the seat of Melbourne, and the election of up to 11 minor party and other candidates to the crossbenches of the upper house. While the Greens’ overall vote looks set to stay at around 11 percent, the Party is now able to eye off more of the inner-Melbourne seats held by Labor for over 100 years.

The Nationals also suffered from the dramatic decline in the number of “rusted-on” voters. Independent Suzanna Sheed was a latecomer to the contest in the seat of Shepparton. She focussed on the issues of rail and road infrastructure, youth unemployment, education, health and aged care and was elected with a massive swing of 32.5 percent against the sitting member, Greg Barr. The Nationals had held Shepparton for 47 years.

The new premier will now have to negotiate the government’s way out of contracts with transnationals for the building of the unpopular East West Link road project. Andrews hopes offers of new work such as removing level crossings and building a $400-$500 million road link through Melbourne’s inner west will keep the construction giants happy. The Prime Minister insists the original project must go ahead and is threatening to withdraw $3 billion in Commonwealth funding to the state if it doesn’t. He and the new Victorian Premier are set for a real test of nerves.

Voters in South Australia have delivered their verdict on the Abbott government with a likely win for Labor at the by-election for the state seat of Fisher. The ALP’s Nat Cook is ahead in the poll made necessary by the passing of Bob Such, a former Liberal turned independent. Labor is in its fourth term in office in SA and the state is braced for a sharp economic downturn. It is rare for governments in those circumstances to pick up seats at a by-election and the Abbott effect has been blamed.

Recent election results demonstrate that Australians are strongly opposed to the Abbott government’s destructive agenda. The success of the Greens, minor party and independent candidates reveals a cynicism about the major parties and a loss of patience with their spin. Grass roots campaigns, such as the one in opposition to the East West Link project, are having a bigger impact on election results than ever before. Greater activism in this sphere will bring greater possibilities for real change. The revolving door of Coalition and Labor governments may be with us for a while longer but a change is definitely in the air.

Next article – Vale – Constance “Connie” Purkis

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